InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum 20% Review: Everything You Need to Know
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Hello, everyone. I thought I’d continue with the reviews on SAP variations of vitamin C serums. Today I’ll be focusing on one I repurchased 3 times in the past! The #1 amazon best seller — InstaNatural’s Vitamin C Serum 20%, a.k.a the Age Defying & Skin Clearing Serum.
Given I used it for several months, I feel I’m qualified to answer what’s good about it and what’s not. There are some things I adorable about this serum, and other aspects I find questionable. Let’s get into them!
Table of Contents
Ingredients and Benefits.
This is probably the most appealing part about the InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum 20%. At a quick firsthand glance it sounds spectacular — it has 20% Vitamin C (SAP), 3.5% Niacinamide, 2.5% Retinol, and 2% Salicylic Acid.
Like one reviewer put it on Amazon, “it saves you time and money because all these ingredients are packed into one product.” Sounds pretty logical, right? While I see where they’re coming from, it’s not entirely true because of the serum’s pH. More about that in a bit….
Here’s the full list of ingredients:
Deionized Water, Organic Aloe, Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Vegan Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide), Retinol, Olive Oil Squalene, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Rosehip Seed Oil, Carbomer, (2s)-2-Amino-5-guanidinopentanoic Acid, Pink Grapefruit Essential Oil, Tea Tree Essential Oil, Lavender Essential Oil, Ylang Ylang Essential Oil, Organic Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica), Wildcrafted Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense), Wildcrafted Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale), Wild Geranium (Wildcrafted Geranium Maculatum), Phenoxyethanol, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin.
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C)
The cornerstone ingredient in InstaNatural’s Vitamin C Serum. As the name implies there’s 20% of this stuff in the entire product, making it super potent.
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP) is a very bioavailable form of Vitamin C, which allows your skin to absorb it easily. Unlike Ascorbic Acid, it doesn’t oxidize quickly making it a preferable ingredient to incorporate in skincare products.
Generally when people look for vitamin C serums they go for the ascorbic acid variation. Why? Because it’s the most potent form of vitamin C, and its benefits are plentiful and well documented. It brightens skin ton, treats hyperpigmentation, increases collagen production etc.
With that said, it has a terribly low shelf life when not properly formulated (which is often). And it requires an inherently low pH to function, which could cause irritation for those with more sensitive skin types.
On the other hand, the SAP variation of Vitamin C is non-irritating. It’s gentle on the skin, and studies have shown its side effects are akin to the vehicle in clinical trials (essentially the placebo). (1, 2, 3)
In studies, the vehicle is used for comparative purposes and is composed of inert substances with no pharmacological activity. So the fact that SAP produces the amount of irritation the vehicle does is astonishing. Particularly because SAP comes with a load of benefits!
It fights acne better than 5% benzoyl peroxide monotherapy, and can be used as a natural alternative to antibiotics. (4, 5) It brightens skin tone and treats hyperpigmentation. And it provides photoprotective properties — that is, it helps protect the skin from the adverse effects of sun exposure like aging, sunburn, free radical formation etc.
To this day, SAP is considered one of the most gentle and effective skincare actives on the market. These are just a few reasons SAP is total badass. If you’d like to read my full blog post about it click here.
Another all star ingredient with a ton of benefits. It’s gentle and non-irritating. Lightens skin, and treats hyperpigmentation. (6, 7, 8) Increases hydration and improves barrier function. (9, 10, 11, 12) Has some acne-fighting properties, and a suitable alternative to antibiotics. (13, 14, 15) It increases collagen production, and has well-documented anti-wrinkle effects comparable to prescription tretinoin (Retin-A). (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21) In other words, it does it all!
A naturally occurring substance and potent humectant capable of holding 1000 times it’s water weight. (22, 23) It’s extremely effective at hydrating skin by drawing moisture from the environment, and gives a “plumping” effect that reduces fine lines and wrinkles. Also promotes and significantly speeds up wound healing. (24, 25, 26, 27)
An all-star ingredient for all things anti-aging. Considered the weaker form of Tretinoin (Retin-A), but still a powerful antioxidant. It enhances cell turnover, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, treats photodamage, and lightens skin. (28, 29, 30)
However, the placement of it in this formula is a bit questionable. There’s debate about whether Retinol is pH dependent or not. (31, 32, 32, 33) Some experts no, others say yes. I personally err on the side of caution and say it is.
Under that premise, Retinol would function optimally at a pHof 5.5-6. The pH of the InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum 20% is around a 7. (I tested it at home, but also emailed them to confirm.) With that said, the addition of Retinol in this product may be nothing more than marketing.
An oil-soluble chemical exfoliate that unclogs pores, treats warts, acne, and hyperpigmentation. (34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39) It also has some anti-aging benefits, and isn’t photosensitizing! (40, 41, 42) Meaning it doesn’t increase sun sensitivity like other chemical exfoliates (e.g. AHAs and Retinoids).
However, this is another ingredient that is pH dependent! Unlike Retinol, the evidence on this is conclusive. Salicylic Acid requires a pH of 4 or lower to work optimally. Anything above a neutral pH renders it useless. (43)
Rosehip Seed Oil
A fantastic oil for dry skin that sinks in quickly and has anti-inflammatory properties. (44) Contains linoleic, linolenic, oleic, and palmitic fatty acids. It’s rumored to have anti-aging benefits and treat hyperpigmentation because it has naturally occurring vitamin A (tretinoin).(45, 46) There’s also some evidence that rosehip oil is good for acne.
Tea Tree Oil
Contrary to popular belief, the addition of essential oils in moisturizers and serums are generally a bad thing. Most of them are simply too irritating to be left on skin. Depending on how sensitive you are, they may or may not pose a problem.
The InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum 20% has both Lavender and Ylang Ylang Essential Oil. Both of which could be irritating.
Application, Feel, and Scent.
I like serums with a bit of “slip” to them. I find they’re easier to spread and require less product, which saves you money in the long run. In my experience the ones without “slip” are also more drying, which isn’t ideal when avoiding irritation. I’d insert a photo of it’s spreadability here, but both my bottles are empty. 🙁
However, I remember it very well. It’s quite watery and thin, but definitely spreads easily and is non-drying. It dries very matte and is hardly noticeable on the skin. It smells strongly of citrus, but isn’t overwhelming. Overall, I enjoyed applying it and found no issues with it here.
You may be wonder why I bought this serum twice if I find some of the ingredients questionable. Simple. Because it worked.
I have no doubt that all the before and after pictures posted in the Amazon review section are real. The sheer number of how many there are speaks for itself. I saw very similar results every time I used this serum — brighter healthier looking skin and a reduction in hyperpigmentation. I’m positive it was because of the high 20% SAP content.
The difference occured rather quickly and was noticeable within a couple of weeks. Like always, YMMV.
How to Use.
You want to apply it after cleanser and before moisturizer. If you’re incorporating low pH serums and exfoliates, those will come beforehand as well. Here’s an example routine with all things being considered. Adjust this accordingly to what you use personally as some of these steps won’t apply.
- Oil cleansing method, or oil cleanser.
- Gentle pH-balanced cleanser (5.5 or below)
- Low pH serums or toner. Wait 20-30 minutes.
- Salicylic Acid (BHA). Wait 20-30 minutes.
- AHA (glycolic, lactic, mandelic). Wait 20-30 minutes.
- Vitamin C (SAP) — InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum 20%
- Retinoids (Tretinoin [Retin-A], Retinol)
- Spot treatments or other actives (e.g. Benzoyl Peroxide, Azelaic Acid).
- Occlusives (e.g. Vaseline, Aquaphor)
The Take Away.
- Ingredients: 3/5
There’s some great ingredients like Vitamin C (SAP), Niacinamide, tea tree oil, and rosehip seed oil. However the addition of Retinol and Salicylic Acid are questionable because the product isn’t properly formulated for these to work. Lavender and Ylang Ylang Essential Oil may be irritating for those with sensitive skin.
- Benefits: 3/5
Fights acne, lightens skin, treats hyperpigmentation, and provides photoprotective properties. But once again, could be irritating if you have sensitive skin.
- Application: 5/5
Has a lot of slip, spreads easily, dries matte, and leaves no tacky feeling. Smells very citrus-like.
- Packaging: 5/5
No real complaints here. The packaging is nice. And the dropper dispenser is fine because we don’t have to worry about the ingredients oxidizing quickly.
- Value: 4/5
Very decently priced for the amount of product and 20% Vitamin C (SAP) you receive.
Not bad, but I think there are better SAP products out there like Mad Hippie’s Vitamin C Serum. In my opinion, this serum would rank way higher if the marketing wasn’t so deceptive and the essential oils removed.
On the other hand, the high vitamin C content in this product undeniably produces results. If you were looking to buy this serum for the sole purpose of retinol or salicylic acid, I’d skip out on it and look elsewhere. However, if that doesn’t bother you and the main selling point was the high Vitamin C content (20%) then this is a good option.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this review! Have a lovely day.